In this series, FPSA members share their experiences at PROCESS EXPO and offer insights into how to maximize trade show ROI. Today's interviewee is Ashley Riley, the Senior Marketing Manager at industrial cleaning product manufacturer Nilfisk.

How was your experience at PROCESS EXPO 2015?

Excellent. This was our first at PROCESS EXPO since 2009, when it separated from PACK EXPO. We feel that the value of the show has improved dramatically. The level of contact we were able to make was much higher than at the past shows.

That's fantastic! Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by value?

For us, value at a trade show means good, steady traffic, and there was plenty of that to be had.

We received 67 good leads at the show. That's about what we expected in terms of number, but what's most important is their quality. So far, about half of those leads have converted into opportunities, and two have closed. Our buying cycle is typically 6 to 12 months, and with those two sales, the show paid for itself in 6 months. That's a big deal for us.

What were the main factors that contributed to your success?

We did several things that were very successful. First, we have a large product line and we brought products to the show. We find that the hands-on experience is highly effective at capturing people's attention.

We are also active in FPSA — one of our business development managers sits on the FPSA bakery council. We leveraged our existing connections by inviting people to the booth and setting up dinners and on-floor meetings.

I also think the graphics on our trade show materials make an impact. Our goal is to help people imagine themselves using our equipment in various situations. Prospective customers look at these graphics and can relate to them in a meaningful way.

Did you do any pre-show marketing to attract leads?

We did. We reached out to our customers so our sales team could connect with them at the show. We also did PR through the PROCESS EXPO website to get the word out to major food processing publications. Finally, we sent a pre-show e-blast to make sure we touched base with everyone on our list, whether or not they actually attended the show.

What do you do to follow up after a trade show?

We treat all trade show leads as sales qualified and give them our white-glove treatment. We have a very highly educated sales team, and our top priority is to have a local Nilfisk expert contact leads as quickly as possible. Within 5 to 10 business days after the end of a trade show, we do one-to-one follow-up on all leads.

Anything else about PROCESS EXPO or your experience you'd like to share?

I feel like location in the hall matters now more than ever, especially for new exhibitors and smaller exhibitors. We were in a 10 x 20 booth, and for us location is crucial. That's why we always book our space for the next time while we're at the show.

Also, it's important to have the right personnel on the floor — not just people who are educated about the product, but those who can make decisions for the next show. For example, we always send our marketing team to the show so they can assess what's working and make sure we're getting the best ROI possible.